This is the story of 16 years old Iranian girl Atefeh Rajabi Sahaaleh. She was continuously raped and tortured by men around her. In the end, instead of giving punishments to those men, Iranian Court sentenced her to death by public hanging.
Early Life Atefeh Rajabi Sahaaleh
Atefeh Rajabi Sahaaleh was born on September 21, 1987, in Mashhad, Iran. Her mother died in a car accident when she was five. Shortly after, her younger brother is said to have drowned in a river. Her father became a drug addict, and she was forced to care for her octogenarian grandparents. Despite her attention to their needs they are reported to have completely ignored her. She grew up in the town of Neka, Iran, near the Caspian Sea and was described as a “lively and intelligent girl.”
Unfair Arrest And Trial Of Atefeh Sahaaleh
Atefeh was arrested by the revolutionary street guards after being raped by a 51-year-old man. Three days after her arrest, Atefeh was in a court and tried under Islamic Sharia law. According to Sharia law, she was convicted of ‘crimes against chastity’ ― crimes involving sexual behaviour like ‘adultery’.
The moral police said the locals had submitted a petition, describing her as a “source of immorality” and a “terrible influence on local schoolgirls.” But there were no signatures on the petition ― only those of the arresting guards.
During her alleged torture, Atefeh admitted to having had sex repeatedly with the 51-year-old ex-revolutionary guard turned taxi-driver Ali Darabi. Darabi was a married man with children at the time.
Atefeh had been raped by Ali Darabi over a period of 3 years without her family being aware. While in prison she was further allegedly tortured and raped by prison guards. She told this to her grandmother who visited her saying that afterwards she could only walk on all fours because of the pain!
An Unfair Judgement: Trapped Inside Inequality
The judge in her case was Haji Rezai, who was the head of Neka’s court. When Atefeh realized that she was losing her case, she removed her hijab, an act seen as a severe contempt of the court, and argued that Ali Darabi should be punished, not her. She even removed her shoes and threw them at the judge.
Execution Of Atefeh: A Crime Against Humanity
The judge, Hazi Rezai, later sentenced Atefeh to death, while Darabi got just 95 lashes. Within 7 days of the judgement, Atefeh was publicly hanged from a crane in the street of Neka, on Sunday, August 15, 2004.
A witness claims: “The judge just looked at her body, because of the developed physique… and declared her as 22.” Judge Haji Rezai took Atefeh’s documents to the Supreme Court himself. And at six o’clock on the morning of her execution, he put the noose around her neck, before she was hoisted on the crane to her death.
Amnesty International and other human rights organizations declared Atefeh’s execution to be a ‘crime against humanity and against children of the world.’
Pardon In Their Cold Eyes
According to the BBC, the documents presented to the Supreme Court of Appeal described her as 22 years old, but her birth certificate and death certificate stated that she was 16. The issue of her age was not brought to proper attention before it was too late.
The execution of Atefeh Rajabi Sahaaleh is considered controversial because as a signatory of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Iran promised not to execute anyone under the age of 18. Atefeh’s father had passed her birth certificate to the civil authorities, lawyers involved, journalists and Judge Rezai.
Furthermore, Amnesty International and other organizations claimed that she suffered from psychological illness, both before and at the trial. Pursuant to continual complaints filed by Atefeh’s family, and heavy international pressure about her execution and the way the judge mishandled the case, the Supreme Court of Iran issued an order to pardon Atefeh ― a useless pardon when it all had already ended.
This is not the only case of Iranian autocracy. In the last few years, Iran had publicly hanged so many people with silly and wrong reasons that a normal person can never imagine. Among these public executions, there were many children including teens, even below 13 years old kids. All these unethical justice and cruelties take place when the nation faces a lack of democracy. So, we should preserve democracy else it would backfire us in the near future.